Last week we cast a critical eye over the DMP-BD45, a well-meaning if underwhelming attempt to bring Panasonic’s Blu-ray brilliance to the masses. And, as promised, this week we follow it up with a review of its bigger brother, the DMP-BD85, which is currently the best-specified model in the range (until the 3D-capable DMP-BDD300 comes out later this year, that is).
Being the most advanced (and most expensive) player in the line-up, the Profile 2.0 BD85 is equipped with an arsenal of cutting-edge features, most of which are missing from the BD45. Chief among these is Wi-Fi support, which lets you connect to the web or stream content from your home network, making this a strong challenger to wireless decks like the LG BD390 and Sony BDP-S760.
But the main difference between the BD85 and its rivals is the Wi-Fi adapter itself - it isn’t built in. Instead, Panasonic provides a USB dongle in the box, which plugs into a port on the back of the player, or you can use the supplied extension cable if it has trouble finding the wireless waves. Built-in Wi-Fi a la Sony and LG is clearly the more attractive option on paper, particularly as Panasonic’s square-shaped dongle is much bulkier than your average USB stick, but in truth it’s no great hardship – once installed you’ll forget it’s even there. It’s worth pointing out that this USB dongle is supplied with the BD85 but it’s optional for the cheaper BD65.
Like the Sony BDP-S760 and LG BD390, the BD85 supports 802.11a/b/g, as well as the faster n specification. Having a wireless connection makes it a cinch to download or stream BD Live content, but it certainly doesn’t make it any quicker. Terminator Salvation’s BD Live portal took several minutes to access, although the clips stream reasonably quickly and play back smoothly.
The deck is also DLNA certified, which means you can nose around in PCs and NAS servers on your home network and access music and photos stored on them. And using Panasonic’s Viera Cast portal the deck puts even more content at your disposal, including videos from YouTube and photos from Google Picasa.
Having a wireless web connection is pointless if it’s a pain to use, but thankfully it poses few problems here. Go to the setup menu and the Network Easy Setting runs you through each step of the process, giving you the opportunity to use the ‘push button’ WPS function if your router supports it. Alternatively it can perform an access point search followed by the encryption key screen, where you enter your password using a logical and responsive virtual keyboard. It took a few minutes to find our router but once locked on, the BD85 provided a steady and consistent connection.